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Blogs

Culliver could give Cards another CB

Posted by Darren Urban on July 20, 2016 – 7:56 am

On the heels of Mike Jenkins signing, Cardinals GM Steve Keim confirmed Tuesday night that the Cards will also bring in free agent veteran cornerback Chris Culliver in for a visit next week.

“He’s a guy that’s had some success in the NFL and is coming off the ACL, so we’ll see where it goes,” Keim said.

The caveat is that Culliver is coming off an ACL and MCL tear in November, suffering the injury in a practice while playing for Washington. He was released this offseason a year into a four-year contract, although Washington GM Scot McCloughan told the Washington Post Culliver is on schedule in his rehab and should play this season. Culliver, a one-time 49ers, turns 28 in August, although knee injuries have been a constant issue with him over the years. He also tore his ACL in 2012, missing that entire season. Culliver played in only six games last season, but had four interceptions for the 49ers in 2014.

The Cardinals have to figure out (besides how much money he might want) where Culliver’s health is and how it fits into the secondary. Already, Tyrann Mathieu is coming off an ACL and his availability for the opener is still uncertain. Can the Cards afford another player like that? Does he become someone with which Jenkins battles for a spot or could the Cards sign and keep both with younger cornerbacks moved to the side?

One thing Keim made clear: There are expectations for Justin Bethel to start. “The more Justin plays the better he’ll get,” Keim said.

Chris Culliver


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Jenkins is Keim’s CB camp signing

Posted by Darren Urban on July 19, 2016 – 9:16 am

So, with training camp starting in a little more than a week, the Cardinals have signed a veteran cornerback. (With Steve Keim, did you expect anything else?) Mike Jenkins, with whom the Cardinals flirted before as a free agent back in 2014, is the one now in the defensive back mix.

You knew they would get a vet. Early in offseason there were talks with Bengals vet Leon Hall (who is still unsigned) and Jerraud Powers (who eventually signed with Baltimore). Jenkins has spent the last two years in Tampa, where he signed after nothing materialized with the Cards two years ago. At the time, the Cardinals instead signed Antonio Cromartie (who made the Pro Bowl.)

Jenkins joins a crowded secondary. There is no set starter across from Patrick Peterson. Justin Bethel has a slight edge, and Jenkins — who has started just five games the past two years in his 15 appearances — has a chance to get in the lineup. But he isn’t a lock to win a spot necessarily, either. Third-round pick Brandon Williams will join Peterson and Bethel on the roster. Draft pick Harlan Miller has a chance. Former undrafted corner Cariel Brooks has a chance. There are also a couple of guys who have been around — Asa Jackson and Shaun Prater — who have had an offseason to show themselves.

(Adam Schefter is reporting the Cardinals are scheduled to bring in vet CB Chris Culliver for a visit too. Keim confirmed the visit.)

However it plays out, Keim has made sure there is that veteran security blanket heading into camp. Maybe the Cardinals already in place will show it was unnecessary. But usually, that vet who signs now not only ends up necessary but an integral part of the upcoming season.

Corey Brown, Mike Jenkins


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Definitely no Brady versus Cardinals

Posted by Darren Urban on July 13, 2016 – 7:24 am

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady’s attempt for a new hearing for his four-game Deflategate suspension was turned down today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, meaning — again — Brady won’t be playing against the Cardinals in the regular-season opener at University of Phoenix Stadium on “Sunday Night Football.”

Brady still could appeal to the Supreme Court, but that course of action (which would likely be an attempt to at least get a stay for the suspension, pushing it perhaps to 2017) is a longer shot than the Second Circuit move.

UPDATE: Brady announced he will no longer fight the suspension, so he is definitely not playing against the Cardinals.

The Cards have been asked about Brady playing or not playing, and yes, a couple have talked about wanting to play the best — which includes facing Brady. But I thought Larry Fitzgerald was pretty honest when he was asked about whether he’d rather play against Brady in the opener or not.

“Come on, man,” Fitzgerald said. “I think that’s a pretty easy question to answer. I love Tom, that’s my man, but if he doesn’t play, I wouldn’t shed any tears.

“I’d love to see him back the next week, though.”

It wouldn’t be the next week, either.

Tom Brady


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The Rock isn’t coming, but Arians attracts

Posted by Darren Urban on July 11, 2016 – 10:10 am

So Sunday, actor, former professional wrestler and one-time college football player Dwayne Johnson — The Rock — tweeted out a video of Bruce Arians with the message “Would’ve loved to play for this man.” It got me thinking about something GM Steve Keim said about one of the benefits of having the “All or Nothing” series out there for public consumption.

It helps not only the brand, but it helps create resources you didn’t have before,” Keim said. “Sometimes, when you talk about free agency, there is a recruiting aspect to that. So when there is a perception of a team or an organization and it is good, it makes it that much easier to talk players into signing here and sometimes signing for less money, because they want to be part of something special.”

OK, The Rock isn’t signing a contract with the Cardinals (and, it should be noted, the video clip Johnson used was actually from the Arians bio “A Football Life” and not from “All or Nothing.”) But it underscores what Keim said about the Amazon series. It’s clear the biggest “star” of the whole thing is Arians. Without his personality, I’m not sure the series is as successful as it is, and that’s not to knock anyone else in the program. But the head coach is naturally going to be at the epicenter of a series like that, and — as all of us know who work with Arians on a daily basis — Arians has that kind of charisma.

Yes, he can MF you on the practice field, but players can see it’s about the football. Arians forgets about it as soon as the work is over. He can separate the player and the man. That’s why guys love to play for him. And while The Rock isn’t coming anytime soon, you can bet there are active players out there who have watched “All or Nothing” or Arians’ “A Football Life” and are thinking that they too want to play for Arians and the Cardinals. That’s a powerful tool.


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The pain of the Cardinals-Seahawks rivalry

Posted by Darren Urban on July 6, 2016 – 11:25 am

By now, there is little question about the rivalry between the Seahawks and the Cardinals of the last couple of years (if you need to see the raw emotion, at least from the Cardinals’ side, check out the episodes “The Penthouse” and “Endings and Beginnings” of the “All or Nothing series). When you look at the analytics of it, as Bill Barnwell did in this article, the question arises — is it good to have such a rivalry, or not?

It’s not so much about the rivalry itself but the fact both teams are so good. Barnwell points out, through recent historical data, that to have two powerful teams in one division — the argument can easily be made that the two are among the top four or five in the NFL going into 2016 — can cost both a significant chance at a Super Bowl win.

Again, it’s not so much that the two teams beat up on each other, which can be part of it, but the reality that home-field makes a big difference in the postseason. When two strong teams are in the same division, it’s that much harder to obtain. Still, in 2013, when the 49ers were still strong and the Cardinals had 10 wins and the Rams were still doing well in the division, the Seahawks managed to emerge as a Super Bowl champion. And during the season, these days, there is little like Seattle week for the Cardinals.

RivalrySEa


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Posted in Blog | 22 Comments »

Cardinals nearly drafted Abdullah, not Johnson

Posted by Darren Urban on June 30, 2016 – 9:31 pm

There will be some interesting parts to the Cardinals’ 2015 season revealed now that “All or Nothing” is now available to stream on Amazon video. One is there right at the outset of the first episode. The cameras take you into the Cardinals’ draft room when they are on the clock in the second round, all set to select Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah — VP of player personnel Terry McDonough is literally on the phone with Abdullah — when the Lions end up taking Abdullah the pick before Arizona. (The disappointment is palpable. It’s a scene you have to watch play out.)

How much would’ve changed last season had the Abdullah pick been made? Without the ability to draft Abdullah, the Cardinals took outside linebacker Markus Golden in the second round. And then they went with running back David Johnson in the third round. Golden has already played his way into a probable starting job following a solid rookie season, while Johnson had 13 touchdowns as a rookie and is going to be the anchor for the Cards’ running game in 2016.

Johnson, in fact, is a guy who the Cards’ decision-makers feel can be a star in the NFL. Abdullah had a solid rookie year for the Lions too, but I’d guess the Cards would have no desire to flip Johnson for Abdullah right now. Johnson showed he can run the ball and his ability to catch is fantastic (Johnson made a grab on a wheel route during OTAs that had teammates marveling. In the offseason.)

Feels like this turned out pretty well for the Cardinals.

Ameer Abdullah, Tyrann Mathieu, Deone Bucannon


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Peterson and, yes, Palmer make NFLN 100

Posted by Darren Urban on June 29, 2016 – 5:56 pm

So, in the end, Carson Palmer made it.

On the NFL Network’s annual top 100 list, the quarterback’s huge 2015 season earned him No. 12 on the rankings, joining teammate Patrick Peterson (at No. 18) in the top 20 as what I would expect to be the final two Cardinals in the countdown. The top 10 players are announced next week.

Barring a top 10 surprise, the Cardinals ended up with six players on the list: Calais Campbell, Chandler Jones, Tyrann Mathieu, Larry Fitzgerald and then, of course, Palmer and Peterson.

While this list isn’t the end-all-be-all, it shows the respect the players on the Cardinals’ roster have across the league. You can argue about where the players were ranked, of course. I can’t say I’ve paid close attention to where the non-Cardinals are, although at first glance I don’t know if there are 17 players worthy of being ahead of Peterson after the season he had in 2015, but again, that’s what June and July are for — debate in the dead of the offseason. (It’s fair to wonder if Peterson was ranked too high last year.)

But it was good to see Palmer on the list. It’s his first appearance since the list came out and since he was discussed as an MVP candidate, it was kind of a no-brainer. When your quarterback is considered among the top 12 players in the league, your team is probably in pretty good shape.


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For what it’s worth in June, offensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 24, 2016 – 2:13 pm

As we maneuver through the dead of the offseason (and I finally get some time off), it’s a chance to survey the landscape of the Cardinals and make predictions about the season opening starters a couple of months from now – like I did with the defense yesterday.

Today, before I disappear for a bit, here is the offensive version, which, given the return of all the skill players, isn’t exactly an exercise in rocket science:

QB – Carson Palmer. As long as he’s healthy and productive, the Cardinals will remain a contender.

RB – David Johnson. The Cards hope that vets Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington stay healthy and contribute to Bruce Arians’ multi-pronged offense. But make no mistake, David Johnson is the running back in this offense.

WR – Larry Fitzgerald. He’s coming of a renaissance season only to be stepping into the will-he-or-won’t-he-retire last year of his contract. Still, he remains the soul of this offense.

WR – Michael Floyd. Also going into a contract year. Had a slightly slow start, but his dominance for a long stretch mid-to-late in the year showed how much of an impact he can really make. Yet another of the weapons that will make this team so hard to defend.

WR—Smokey Brown. Arians said Brown slumped late in the year, so the goal now is for Brown to carry through his talents for 16 games. Avoiding a nagging hamstring injury like the one that bothered him for a chunk of last season would be a good starting point.

TE – Darren Fells. Jermaine Gresham will get plenty of playing time, but Fells quietly had a very solid season last year, and Palmer said he’s shed 20 pounds and looks even better through the spring.

RT – D.J. Humphries. One of the few offensive question marks. All signs point to the 2015 first-round pick starting this season after learning a hard lesson as an inactive player for all 16 games as a rookie. If the Cardinals sign a veteran right tackle as camp opens, all bets are off.

RG – Evan Mathis. The Cardinals signed the Super Bowl champ to a one-year contract hoping he can not only solidify the line but also serve as a mentor – or at least give veteran help — to Humphries.

C – A.Q. Shipley. Eventually, the Cardinals want fourth-round pick Evan Boehm to win this job. But can the rookie learn enough to beat out Shipley by September? I’m guessing it takes a little longer than that.

LG – Mike Iupati. Comes to Cardinals, makes the Pro Bowl, the running game piles up almost 2,000 yards. Probably not a coincidence.

LT – Jared Veldheer. The offensive line overhaul with Steve Keim began with the Veldheer signing back in 2014. The Cards wanted a left tackle anchor. They got one.

OffenseWorth


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For what it’s worth in June, defensive edition

Posted by Darren Urban on June 23, 2016 – 1:35 pm

The players have been gone for a couple of weeks. The coaches are on vacation. Now is the time for them to not think about football, since football will dominate lives when the end of July arrives.

In the meantime, it is the perfect time to speculate and predict.

As I have done for a number of years, here are my picks, in late June, of who will be the starters for the Cardinals when they begin the regular season Sept. 11 against the Patriots on “Sunday Night Football.” They are the best guesses for a team that has yet to take part in training camp, yet to absorb any of the inevitable camp injuries, yet to sign anyone late as a Steve Keim blue light special.

While the Cardinals often are in some sort of sub-package, for this post we are going with the base defense. I’ll post my thoughts on the offense tomorrow (and here they are):

DT – Calais Campbell. Going into the last year of his contract, Campbell’s future with the Cardinals is fuzzy. But the Pro Bowler has played well, and the addition of Chandler Jones figures to make him better, and in a year where the Cards are going to push for a Super Bowl, he’ll be a key piece.

NT – Corey Peters. The Cards like Rodney Gunter, who was solid as a rookie. But Peters was impressing coaches before his Achilles injury last season, and I expect him to make a similar push to get back into the starting lineup by the time the season starts. Other than Campbell, the defensive line starter positions are a) up for grabs and b) part of a rotation, anyway. One caveat: This is assuming Peters is indeed all the way healthy, but coach Bruce Arians said Peters would be ready to go come camp.

DT – Frostee Rucker. Rucker missed offseason work with a foot injury, and he may not be ready right when camp opens. But assuming he doesn’t miss too much time, he figures to find his way into the lineup again. He’s been solid the last couple of seasons, and while there is youth available (Gunter, Nkemdiche, Stinson) Rucker still leads the way.

OLB – Chandler Jones. He was penciled into the lineup the day he arrived in a trade. He’ll be a three-down player.

ILB – Deone Bucannon. Last year at this time I picked Bucannon to be the starting strong safety. It was, after all, where he spent the entire 2015 offseason working. Then, when camp began, Buc was back at dollar linebacker. The Cards don’t even pretend he is anything but anymore.

ILB – Kevin Minter. He got his chance to show he could be a starter last year, and he made it work. He’ll be back in place again as he goes into the last year of his contract.

OLB – Markus Golden. When it comes to outside linebackers, Jones is the star, Alex Okafor is the former starter on the comeback trail after his dicey exit to 2015, and Dwight Freeney is the still-available free agent. Meanwhile, Golden, who was solid as a rookie, will slide into the starting spot opposite Jones. He’ll have the chance to be a nice bookend.

CB – Patrick Peterson. Yes, 2014 was mostly forgettable. Peterson couldn’t have made 2015 more memorable. That was the stud cornerback he could be, and the one the Cards are counting on going forward.

CB – Justin Bethel. There is competition, not from someone unsigned, but from the rookies. If Bethel is going to grab this job, he has to hold off raw rookie Brandon Williams. He should be able to do that.

FS – Tyrann Mathieu. In the end, I think Mathieu finds a way to be ready by “Sunday Night Football” to open the season. If not, Tyvon Branch – who will get a lot of playing time anyway – is around. The Cards need a healthy and productive Mathieu.

SS – Tony Jefferson. Branch will be in the mix too, and D.J. Swearinger will make a push, but in the end I think Jefferson finds his way on to the field first, as the Cards once again mix-and-match often their secondary. (Would I be surprised if Branch starts? Not at all.)

DefenseWorth


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Mathieu, Fitz go back-to-back on top 100

Posted by Darren Urban on June 22, 2016 – 5:33 pm

As the NFL Network’s top 100 list pulled into the top 30 Wednesday night, not one but two Cardinals made the list. Safety Tyrann Mathieu is No. 28 on the list, with wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald at No. 27. It is Mathieu’s first inclusion on the list, while this is the sixth time Fitzgerald has made it. Both players figured to be honored, given how they played in 2015. Heck, Fitzgerald made the list even in his down statistical years, so he was a lock to get in after a 109-catch season.

For those keeping track, Fitz has gone from 14th to seventh to 22nd to 38th to 68th and now back to 27th.

Mathieu, meanwhile, was still an all-pro even with his ACL tear. The way he has been playing, Mathieu has proved when he is healthy, he’ll be a lock for this list. He’s not only incredibly productive, but popular too all across the league (this list is voted on by players.)

The Cardinals already had two others on this year’s list: DT Calais Campbell at No. 71, and OLB Chandler Jones at No. 48. Cornerback Patrick Peterson figures to land in the top 20 — which is all that is left. Is it possible QB Carson Palmer will be in the top 20? Or will he be left off the list?


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